While the nation celebrated the contributions of Martin Luther King Jr. on Jan. 15, Menlo Park celebrated its own national and local hero, Karl E. Clark, who some say stood for many of the same things Dr. King did.
On Monday, Jan. 15, community members and local dignitaries unveiled the new "Karl E. Clark Park" at 313 Market Place in Menlo Park's Belle Haven neighborhood.
In attendance were Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-Menlo Park), State Assemblyman Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto), State Senator Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), East Palo Alto City Councilwoman Donna Rutherford, Menlo Park Mayor Peter Ohtaki and City Council members Catherine Carlton, Kirsten Keith and Ray Mueller.
Mr. Clark, who died at age 100 last March, was a World War II hero whose actions were not recognized for 66 years. In January 2012, he was awarded a Commendation Medal with the Combat Distinguishing Device for his response to the May 3, 1945, attack on the USS Aaron Ward.
On that day in 1945, his ship was hit by six kamikaze planes. As the sole survivor of his eight-person damage-control unit, Mr. Clark single-handedly used a fire hose to put out a fire in the ship's ammunition locker, despite suffering from a broken collarbone and having had his shoes and helmet blown off his body. He also carried injured survivors to the medic ward.
Rep. Eshoo, who worked for two years to secure the military honors for Mr. Clark, said in previous remarks that he wasn't recognized earlier "because he was black."
On Jan. 15, she told attendees, "I think Karl Clark mirrored Dr. King because he was all about justice. He was all about service. He was a man (who) loved his country, and he loved his community."
Mr. Clark was a longtime Menlo Park resident and active member of the community.
Lois Reed said the Clark family was one of the first black families to buy a home in eastern Menlo Park, and that Mr. Clark was the first black mailman in Menlo Park, making deliveries by bike.
Cecilia Taylor of Belle Haven Action, a neighborhood activism group, told the audience that she came by the idea to pursue renaming the park after Mr. Clark during his memorial services last year.
"It was clear that he was a person to be loved, honored, respected and remembered, especially by the neighborhood where he worked quietly and tirelessly," she said.
Several members of the community, Hilda Jones-Allen, Lola Clewis, and East Palo Alto Councilwoman Donna Rutherford, shared fond reminiscences of Mr. Clark and visiting his household as friends of his children.
Ms. Clewis said that Mr. Clark was a father figure to her and helped her establish the Bayshore Community Resource Center. "He worked by my side for 15 years to make it happen," she said.